Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Canary Birds a chirping. I was flying into La Palma in the Canary Islands... not to be confused with Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. To complicated matters I was flying into Santa Cruz de La Palma, and not Las Palmas de la Santa Cruz. The steep volcanic island poked its head out of the water shrouded in mist and mystery. I was here to run the Transvulcania  a 47ish mile run. I landed and was unsure what I would do next. I had to somehow find my hotel, get my race bib on the other side of the island and get back to my hotel, eat dinner and go to bed. Luckily i found a race official who gave me a ride to the hotel and explained the bus system. I got on the right bus and headed to the other side of the island. The bus raced up the volcanic cliffs and through the misty humid air. Visibility was poor as we went from one dense cloud to another. Finally once we were over 3000 feet up the bus dove into a tunnel and went straight through the mountain to the western side of the island.  A mile away the west was entirely different. We emerged in a bright forest with the sun beating down, no mist or clouds were here to block the intense heat. It turns out this weather phenomenon allows much to grow on La Palma, the mist is collected from the east side of the island, piped throughout the island to different communities and then doled out in turn to the farmers and residents. I quickly collected my packet and hopped on the bus for the return trip to the east side of the island again. Once there I ate dinner and went to bed. The race would be early the next day.

This photo shows the clouds on the eastern side of the island.

A note on the race: it is incredible. Incredibly steep, incredibly long, incredible views, incredible course, incredible ecosystem. The runners start at sea level run up a 5,000 foot volcanic peak on the island, drop a thousand feet then run up to the high point of the island: Rocque de los Muchachos at 7,943 feet. The total elevation gained is at least 13,000+ feet. Upon reaching the high point the runners circumnavigate the volcano, which happens to be one of the largest calderas in the world. Then the runners drop to sea level and gain 1,000 feet over the last 3 miles to the finish.

I sat shivering waiting for the start. It was still over an hour until the start of the race and I had nothing better to do than wait and shiver in the cold black breezy morning air. At last the race started and it started fast. With a thousand people all pushing and pulling to get the best place. 400 feet into the run the route narrows down to a 3 foot wide trail. I to sprinted, mostly controlled to get a decent spot. I was about 50th place, perfect. Now it was time to run.

Josh Arthur was there and we ran together content to see who would fall apart in front of us. Then we could move up. This was the plan. The miles ticked by and at last we found ourselves summiting the first of the 2 volcanic peaks. From our vantage we could see the whole island. I took in the view for a smattering 1.2 seconds and then off I went. By mile 20 I could tell I was sluggish. The time change and lack of sleep were taking a toll; still I intended to run solid and make up ground. I went through the approximate mile 25 aid station and grabbed a little food and water and left in less than 30 seconds. Great transition.

The next aid would be in 3-4 miles I would need to spend a little more time there. I grabbed a fruit to go, some sort of interesting melon, it tasted good but also somehow off. I ate it and within 5 minutes my stomach fought back. I had to stop and puked up the mess along with much needed water. I drank my last few sips of water and sat then walked for a few minutes to regroup. I was out of water. I asked a few bystanders how close the next aid station would be. It was 2 miles at first, then a mile late it was 3, then 4. The more I asked the further the distance grew. The aid station was expected by all but was cancelled for some reason. As the sun's intensity grew more and more people dropped from dehydration. They even ended up bringing water up in a helicopter to aid the dehydrated runners. A bystander gave me an apple piece and another gave me 2 ounces of coke. I ran on dehydrated but determined. Finally after 2 hours with limited liquid and over 10 miles and 3,000 vertical feet, I finally made the aid station. I stopped determined to rehydrate and drink as much as possible. I left after downing over 75 ounces in 6 minutes. I felt a little heavy in the stomach and off balance only able to lightly jog, but so much better. After 10 minutes I had digested the liquid and was back to running. I soon topped out at the high point on La Palma at 7943 feet, and of course drank another 30 ounces,
It was time to race downhill. I was feeling hydrated and ready to race as I started my decent. It was one of the longest downhills I’ve ever run: 8,000 feet straight down. I finally hit sea level and stated the 1000 foot ascent and over 3 miles to the finish, I felt good but still no way to make up for the time lost earlier in the race. I finally finished in 96th place in 10:23:36. You can look up results here: and the main website is here: .

The race was over, but I still had to find a way to the other side of the island: to my hotel and eventually the airport. I could wait 5 hours for the free bus or hitchhike. The choice was obvious. I walked about 5 minutes to a better hitching point and waited. 10 minutes later I was picked up. My driver was probably a secret agent as he flew along the road taking short cuts and nearly going airborne with great precipices next to us. I thank the secret agent and all of La Palma, what a great race!

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